The London Borough of Lewisham was created in 1965 when local government in London was reorganised. It was formed from the amalgamation of the old boroughs of Lewisham and Deptford and has an area of 13.7 miles. It is a South London borough: neighbouring bouroughs are Southwark, Bromley and Greenwich; the northern boundary is marked by the River Thames.

Population change

1966: 289,000 people
1998: 241,400 people

Lewisham was built up during the 19th century around some ancient small towns and villages. Blackheath was a fashionable centre for wealthy city merchants and traders. It was so called because the earth was significantly darker here than in surrounding fields. Deptford, on the river, had a long history of shipbuilding and maritime trades.

During the 20th century Lewisham became the site of two of the largest London County Council cottage estates: at Downham and Bellingham. In 1945 London's largest estate of 'pre-fabs' was erected in Lewisham. The prefabs on the Excalibur Estate were intended as temporary housing for families displaced by bomb damage but most of the bungalows continued to be lived in until the end of the century. In the 1960s the high-rise Pepys Estate was built on the river, on the site of the old shipbuilding yards at Deptford.

Lewisham ended the 20th century with an unusual form of local government. It is one of the few boroughs in which the council was led by a directly elected mayor: the mayor has many executive responsibilities, rather than being a simple ceremonial . Lewisham was one of the first London borough councils to develop its use of the web in the 1990s. By the end of the century over 40% of Lewisham's population were from ethnic minotiry communities, the largest of the census groups being the Black African, Black Caribbean and 'Black Other' groups.

There are 45 parks in Lewisham, covering more than 650 acres of land. They range from Beckenham Place Park, which is the largest covering 86 acres, to Sydenham Wells Park. Telegraph Hill Park in New Cross is named after the semaphore station that was built there during the Battle of Waterloo.

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